Will Media Make Our Children Think Differently?

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Semantic data, smaller screens, texting, social media, short videos, network update streams, augment reality, and more continue to evolve the way we receive information from both new and traditional email. As each new innovation arrives and evolves, people ask whether or not the new XXXX is harming our youth. Will they will be unable to think logically or effectively? Perhaps the right way to look at this is to ask whether they will think differently.

Inevitably, the answer is yes. Their media information environment is dramatically different than the childhood we remember so fondly.

Currently, there is much concern about literacy, and the state of language with texting and short form media. In actuality, what new media seems to be doing is increasing spelling skills and literacy. However, face-to-face skills may be suffering. Meanwhile, the iPad is revolutionizing learning with more than 40,000 education applications.

But, generally speaking, we have seen a decline in the general public’s ability to discern quality information with the rise of social media. As online media becomes more prevalent, it increases the amount of reading an individual is subjected to in their daily lives. More and more of it is headline oriented, and less and less of it is text rich. Sources are not validated, and this is already creating problems with poor media reporting, much less the general public’s belief in unproven data.

Mobile and tactile media continues this trend, leaning towards shorter media, less text, and more video. While this is a natural trend, there is no emphasis on quality or on educating people and youth on how to intelligently discern what is fact, what is fiction, and what is actionable. Further, they are not being taught how to create quality information either.

Adding to the face-to-face issues, we have already seen how millennials and generation xers will text to each other in a room rather than talk. Relationship break-ups are now occurring via text message. There is a general devolution or devaluing of face-to-face interaction that technologies inherently bring.

Yet, is this bad, or is it just change? Was the telephone and televisions’s impact on local neighbors any different? Would you get rid of voice and video technologies because of it?

Point being, media is changing. It changes us, and the way we behave towards each other, but that doesn’t make it good or bad, just different. The waters move further down river, and we need to move with them. Our children simply have an easier time of it.

What do you think of new media’s impact on the next generation?


  • Geoff, 

    Much like anything. If you place one tool in front of a child, their development is hindered. But if you place many tools in front of a child, their imagination is stimulated, provided they are engaged in creativity. 

    Having two children spaced far enough apart, I’ve seen the outcome in two different ways. I buckled when my son was in kindergarten and allowed him to start playing more immersive video games (e.g. Star Wars and what not). It hindered his creativity, something I’ve been working to help him rediscover now. 

    My daughter, on the other hand (after my lesson was learned not to buckle), plays very few immersive games, sticking to creative, artistic, and educational apps. They’ve helped her grow as an artist and even as a pre-student. She loves taking pictures and drawing on an already archaic drawing app. 

    That said, it’s not really the tool as much as the media you put on it. Stick to the programs that encourage creation and your daughter will be better for it. She’ll even gravitate toward them. 

    New media can be a blessing and curse; but like you and I know, you get what you want out of it. As long as parents are the guide and not allowing the machine to be the guardian, it will open up more doors than it shuts down. 


  • I agree with you that here is an impact on the next generation. I mean, considering that  I can even see the difference between my boyfriend who’s 10 years older than me and me, it is probably a huge impact. But I don’t think, that an impact, a change is necessarily bad. I thought about the impact on language some weeks ago http://wp.me/p1JgHJ-D too. But I guess of course you are right: New media has a broader impact. I hope when I have kids I can deal with the fact, that they’ll grow up with a totally different media use.

  • Great points raised!
    I think RE face to face issues, hopefully the new social features like hangouts on G+ and advances in video chat, skype, facetime etc will help to bring it back round a bit.
    I do think that technology has helped people to be noncommittal, what did we used to do before we could text someone and say, “sorry going to be 30min late” – you would just have been on time.

    But the key point I think you hit here is the validation of information, we are drowning in content, there are some good tools out there to help, but I think we will see things worsen before they get better.

    We need more detailed feedback when sharing, so people have more of an idea about why this content is worth their time, rather then just a like.  And then more on the minority report level – more semantic analysis so that information is pushed to you based on what is individually relevant, basic versions out there, but it will be a while before this is accurate and you can rely on it as your sole info supply.

    • Yeah, I think you make a good point here.  We would certainly benefit from deeper clarity and more information. It also shows us a lot about popularity and what our society declares is good, which in actuality can be far from it.

      I hope you are right about video as a game changer.

  • Interesting topic! Thanks a for sharing!

  • Geoff, research suggests the following: modern technology is bad if people engage before they’re ready. If you start collecting badges, “collaborating” with friends, etc. via social before you have a fully developed sense of “self,” then you stunt your growth as a person. (Read Sherry Turkle’s “Alone Together.”) You end up in a world of externalized rewards and co-dependent relationships, where your self-worth is based on whether or not Bravo builds a show around your ridiculous life.

  • Geoff,
    research suggests the following: modern technology is bad if people
    engage before they’re ready. If you start collecting badges,
    “collaborating” with friends, etc. via social before you have a fully
    developed sense of “self,” then you stunt your growth as a person. (Read
    Sherry Turkle’s “Alone Together.”) You end up in a world of
    externalized rewards and co-dependent relationships, where your
    self-worth is based on whether or not Bravo builds a show around your
    ridiculous life.

    • Hmm, I’m not sure that’s where I was going with this one, but I do think that’s a valid point.  Certainly, thinking rapidly or moving from idea to idea is another direction you could go with it.  The overall impression and changes social and online media makes has yet to be collectively understood.

  • @Geoffliving:twitter As a new dad, I worry about how tech will impact #Babyespo as he continues to grow. Will it make him dumber, more likely to be an introvert or something else? Who knows. What I do think both he and your daughter will grow up in a generation who can better deal with these technologies much like we did with TV and telephones in every house. 

  • As a non-parent I still notice the changes in ‘these kids today’ – how their verbal skills haven’t developed, how some social skills aren’t there that would adhere to the professional norms. Part of it is discipline and work ethic, part is they never learned how to communicate that way. I think today’s generation consumes information at a much faster rate, have so much at their finger tips with just a few easy clicks that it perhaps makes them less assertive about discerning and seeking alternate views, or creating their own content.

    Face to face issues are real; the downside, I’ve read stories and studies of how kids think nothing of using hurtful, negative slurs as jokes – esp. in their texting and social chat. I know my parental friends just gave their teenage sons a present last Christmas: text messaging, with limits on how they can use it because they’re trying to guard against all of this. 

    It is change, part good and part bad, like any other. Think its impact is also on us, what we do – we can teach some self-reliance and make them at least learn some of the old ways, not make things always so instantly gratifying, show them the tools are the tools, it’s the work – for school, relationships, etc. – that matters. FWIW.

    • I definitely see a decline in sensitivity. Not seeing eyes and faces allows people to say things they never would face to face, and I can see this having a big impact with kids today.

  • My kids happily live under two GenX parents and we expect them to be different from us.

    We grew from learning typewriters, phoning librarians, and feeling the pain that an obscurity of information causes. We awoke each day as technology made smaller walls between us and information and people. God, I love it.

    My kids will be fine. They are articulate at a young age. They are smart. They are living life with an abundance of items we only had in fiction. Yet, they remain imaginative people. My elder composes stories at 4… he’s not a genius, but not a robot either.

    Our approach is to do our best and see how it goes. Everyone is a product of the world they live in. Having access to an iPad is an indicator that your kids are pretty privileged and will probably be fine.

    BTW, texting my husband across the room rocks. It is a quiet way to argue sometimes.

    We have read the Diamond Age… we’ll let you know if it comes true with our kids. If so… we become vickies or something, right?

    • Good points. The Diamond Age was a fantastic book. Neal Stephenson was a champ then, before he started writing tomes.  Just an FYI, did you know the iPad is replacing laptops as a low-end computer for poor and middle income families?

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  • i do not think video games change how you think. if they did you would all be running around in dark rooms with never ending music trying to as many circles as possible without being eaten by ghosts. 

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